Why Suggest Economy Tools?

My recent post about simply changing four studs in a saw prompted an exaggerated comment who totally missed the point:

Seeing the hoops you had to jump through makes me glad I spend the extra on a blah, blah, blah saw.

As I said, he nudged the truth to justify his privileged position to spend a great deal of money on a saw and his comment was of no help at all. to anyone. I can tell you, the saws he spoke of cost £400 and up for a single saw. A prohibitive price for most woodworkers I mix with. Totally unnecessary.

I think that like most of us starting out into something like woodworking we often seek out someone to give us advice who has experience at some level. Ask ten woodworkers ‘in the know’ the same question and you’ll likely get one answer: Buy lots of so-called power tools, you need a tablesaw, a jointer planer, thickness planer, bandsaw, chopsaw, radial arm saw, mortise machine, power router battery this and battery that and then all the related support equipment be that the Biesmeyer fence system or a roller-bearing, take-off support table, etc, etc. £10,000 should do it.

Bemused, you might be forgiven for thinking, ‘Whoah! This coffee table is going to be pretty expensive.‘ But today it can also be the same with hand tools too. After all, how often do you hear, “You get what you pay for.”? And I do tire of people saying things like, “My old man always taught me to pay the extra and buy the best I can afford. That way you’ll only buy it once instead of several times over.” Often it’s the richer who can afford the higher and they too can be guilty of ‘wearing their wealth for all to see‘ albeit in a shelf full of expensive planes and saws. Of course, there is nothing wrong with owning finely engineered and pricey tools. I enjoy owning some rarities and scarcities. I like seeing hand-sewn suits on the well dressed, but it’s the tailor and his work I admire, not the suited schill wearing it.

I thought that this explanation might help some to understand a little and perhaps a rethink too. Of course, it is different saw strokes for different saw folks. For some people, the price would not be considered but for others, the price would indeed be highly prohibitive, and that includes me. I have posted on the inexpensive Spear & Jackson over the years because regardless of who Spear & Jackson are or what they do, they gave us a top functioning saw at a very good price. Most people can afford to buy a saw and one that I have endorsed takes out the risk and possible embarrassment. I think that it is important to consider one’s self in the position of others. For instance, if you have never done any woodworking in your life before, and you want to get started, someone asking for advice from this person would likely be told to go out and buy about £1,700 worth of handsaws before she or he even knows if she or he even likes woodworking. Now that is what I call a big “hoop to jump through”, not replacing a few screws and caps by drilling a few holes or even reshaping and redefining and refining a handle to a handsaw as more a whim on my part than an actual necessity. But this problem gets markedly bigger if you are only earning what in the UK is called a ‘living wage’. A living wage is around £15,400 a year, and when you have two children, perhaps a spouse to support, a mortgage to pay and so on. Think about it. And this kind of thinking happens across the board with many suggesting going out and buying £10,000 worth of machinery just to start woodworking, yet all they wanted to do was make a few pieces of furniture. Let me explain further: I am glad people enjoy the privilege of owning expensive tools that they like owning, I have some pieces myself, but that really isn’t the point of the blogpost I put out and nor should anyone feel sorry for those who could never afford to spend as much as they did on what is, when all is said and done, just another handsaw. I didn’t jump through any hoops at any time, I just got on with what I actually really wanted to do and that was improve a saw. Changing the studs took me around 20 minutes. Not exactly ‘hoop-jumping‘, not in and woodworker’s world, anyway.

No, you see I took a saw some years ago, tried it, quite liked it, and thought, this is really affordable and it already cuts quite well. I wanted to be a resource for those looking to find a decent saw. I wanted to use it, improve it, I persevered with it, transformed it, I totally succeeded! More than that, I now have a really good, reliable saw and I totally enjoyed bringing it up to speed. My hope is that hundreds if not thousands long term will follow my example and not just give in. Most of my audience are doers and like to do things for themselves. They’re looking to improve things all around them all the time and they could never afford nor perhaps even want to spend £400 to £440 on what at the end of the day is really just a nice handsaw. Paying around twenty times higher in price makes it prohibitive for most people to get into woodworking. Magnify that three or four times to buy four or more likely five saws, as I might suggest people have, makes £1,500 a particularly high price tag.

I have expressed my rejection of extra-heavy planes over the years, they are mostly unnecessary, overweight and then overvalued too in more than one way. That said, the makers of so-called premium tools are maxed out in production so the demand is there and I am glad. I have used a common Stanley #4 bench plane for hours a day for 55 years and that’s six days a week. I have also used a #4 1/2 Stanley the same way and replaced these planes with around six new irons even though I rarely if ever grind them on an electric grinder. When you use a plane as much as I have, hundreds of thousands of hours, I suppose, you see things much differently. You look for something more suited to the task and indeed pick them from your personal experience. My experience tells me that there is no new plane and no new maker in the last 40 years that gives me any more than the Stanley I bought when I was 15 years old and still use today. I really enjoy using something a little lighter, even less well engineered and of course less in weight. I have accumulated far less poundage in extra baggage over the years just in planing up board surfaces and such.

I liken heavy planes to the steady plodding of say a working draft horse, a mule too, even. The Stanley version of the same plane is more like a lightweight Arabian gelding, something that can spin on a sixpenny piece or a dime. I flip, twist, spin and switch my plane many times in a given hour to achieve my objectives. This is important to me and it will become more important to you as you progress in developing skills and techniques in the use of hand planes. Not so easy a quick exchange with the heavyweight versions that can look quite nice but are more clunkish in the hand and at the work.

If you do watch me working you will have seen that in a decade I have reached for little more than my very ordinary, plain Stanley #4 bench plane and a Stanley #5. All of my planing work includes surfacing rough-sawn boards all the way through to every kind of trimming fine edges for fitting doors, drawers and such come from the standard thin irons with no retrofits anywhere. Not only do they do the work but they work exceptionally well. You need only a Stanley #4 for 95-99% of hand planing work; or a Record #4. A #3 works really well too, especially for the smaller in stature and weight, small hands and such.

I have said similar things about saws too. Rarely do you need more than a decent secondhand vintage Spear & Jackson or a Disston (not those made in Canada from the 1960s on. Not one and the same saw as Philly Disston at all. Junk, really.). These secondhand saws should cost no more than say around £30 or so but I just looked and you could buy an unrestored one for as little as £15 or totally restored one for around £60 or so. Currently, eBay has on offer 962 results just for Disstons alone so bags to choose from and learn on. Of course, the early British makers of old, like S&J, are every bit as good and in many cases better than Henry Disston’s, so in this country and the mainland European countries you can buy British makes more readily. Oh, and if you bought one of these they would likely last you throughout 70 years or more of daily handwork. No modern make will do any more than this and of course, the modern S&J will do just that too.

76 thoughts on “Why Suggest Economy Tools?”

  1. Great point Paul. There seems to be a minimum amount you need to spend to get 80% of the quality ($5 dollar saws seem a bad choice), and then after that you need to spend an exponential amount to get the last 20%. And that extra 20% tool quality doesn’t do anything if not in the hands of skilled woodworker anyway.

    1. One of my favorite saws was a $3 flea market find. Another was maybe $4 that came from a garage sale. Of course, these aren’t new, and you have to put in the time to look for them, but in general, I’ve found saws to be among the easiest to pick up on the cheap. They’re not difficult to sharpen, so when you do put one into use, it can be really satisfying.

      My first dovetail saw was a really inexpensive Crown Gent’s Saw. It was like the “Lynx” Gent’s saw that you can get now, but with a steel back instead of the brass one. I did have to touch up the teeth a little with a needle file, but it worked great! I gave that one to a friend (trying to spread the disease).

      I have another story about newer tools. Someone gave me a fairly new Flinn/Garlick (Pax) 24″ panel saw in a rather unusual deal. This was someone who can and does buy whatever he wants, and more often than not, buys expensive new tools. He wasn’t happy with the Pax saw. I could see why as soon as I looked at it. So I sharpened it and it’s been a champ for me ever since. Maybe it doesn’t have the prettiest of handles, but for some reason haven’t had a problem with comfort on it. I guess I could make another handle or something.

      When I think about this, it occurs to me that I had built the confidence and experience to go filing away at new saws because I had practiced on plenty of older or otherwise inexpensive saws. And if you ask me, that’s an approach I like when getting into woodworking. Finding inexpensive tools that work (and that you can practice sharpening) takes you pretty far.

  2. Yes, some (relatively few) people allow themselves to buy the finest and most expensive things, when they get caught by the interest for something. Cars, bikes, boats, cameras, woodworking or whatever. And it’s OK with me – I myself would perhaps do the same if I could afford it, I don’t know really. But after having learned how to sharpen tools and having picked up some tricks from Mr. Sellers, I’m now capable of making almost anything out of wood with the quite ordinary tools I have. And it actually impresses me more, that it’s possible to make well working tools yourself than it impresses me that an expensive tool can do the job – I would be disappointed if it couldn’t. Paul Sellers inspired me to make a poor man’s router, it works just fantastic and I find it so satisfying to have achieved very decent results using it. And even more when I see the prices the hand routers you can buy for money. I will of course get (or make) a more advanced router one day, when I find something that suits the content of my wallet. Of course I can’t make my own saw and I have found a decent one, which I’m now able to file and set – but I’ve done many cuts with a cheap one with plastic handle as well. Mr. Sellers often says: It’s not what you’re making – it’s how you make it. Well said, I think, I’ve made the last part of the sentence my own – “it’s how you make it”

  3. I had a really hard time figuring out what hand tools to buy when I started into hand tool woodworking 10 years ago. I was starting 100% new. I never even had machines. I was mostly inspired to try hand tools by watching Roy Underhill. I was not aware if Paul was making videos back then.

    I went through a couple years of buying cheap tools at the home center and then looking for vintage user tools on eBay. I made some really lousy purchases. Eventually, I studied and learned enough to buy decent user tools at a reasonable price, either vintage or new.

    I think Paul’s advice on tools to get new woodworkers started is invaluable. It would have saved me a lot of trouble and saved me quite a bit of money.

  4. I took delivery of a £12.83 Silverline No. 4 plane this morning and spent most of the day setting it up, following Paul’s invaluable advice, sharpening the iron and subsequently trying it out. I can’t believe how well it feels and performs.
    It took a little time to re-grind the chip breaker to a better profile and flatten the sole but the end result was so rewarding.
    Beautiful smooth shavings and silky-smooth stock.

  5. Paul is absolutely right. For decades, I’ve been interested in woodworking. I didn’t know where to start, but that was only the half of it. The internet — which should be a place to share knowledge and help people learn — only made me deeply depressed and discouraged. The lesson from every woodworking video and book I found was that I needed to buy expensive machinery to do anything: a table saw, and a planer, and jointer, and router table, and all the blades and fence upgrades and other accessories, and so on. And not just the equipment — then I needed to buy a collection system to deal with all the dust they produced. Every workshop I saw online easily cost tens of thousands of dollars. Every video presumed that the viewer (i.e., me) would have that kind of workshop and offered no help whatsoever for anyone who didn’t. I don’t have that kind of money. I never will, and even if I did, I could never spend thousands for equipment I might use only a few times before deciding it wasn’t for me. It really made me quite despair.

    And then, six years ago, I stumbled on the videos of an English woodworker who used hand tools in a castle in Wales. Making things from wood with hand tools? That’s possible? Paul not only showed it was possible, but how to do it and how to do it well. I can’t put out thousands for machinery, I can’t put out hundreds for a fancy new back saw, but a used plane here, a spokeshave there — that I can do. Bit by bit over the past few years, I’ve accumulated enough tools to allow me to start doing the things Paul teaches about. I’m in my late 50s, and I wish I had know about this in my 20s. I have decades’ worth of catching up to do.

    I’m profoundly grateful to and appreciative of Paul for his excellent teaching, his patience, his clarity and encouragement, but above all for making it possible for ordinary people of ordinary means to be part of the woodworking world. For taking it back from the over-capitalized, inaccessible, “workshop on a hill” that it had become. It has changed my life. Thank you.

  6. I have 18 good old hand saws, Disstons, Atkins, Ibbotson Peace & Co., and others. Most of them cost $3-5, some as much as $15. All needed de-rusting and I’ve refinished the totes. Some I’ve re-sharpened, many are still waiting for me to get around to them. I have several Stanley planes and a couple of nice old wooden ones. Plus braces, drills, auger bits and plenty more old stuff. I followed Paul’s videos and books to restore/refurbish/fettle them to working condition. Everything works great and will certainly outlast me. I have a very limited budget, so I’m delighted when I can find a forgotten old tool and put it back to work.

  7. David Germeroth

    When I first took up the craft close to thirty years ago, I bought a new record plane. I wrecked some very nice boards with it. I read that the cause of my problems was the thin blade the plane came with. Yes replacing the blade with a thicker blade helped a little but not as much as I expected. Then I was told that the fault was my cheap record plane. About that time eBay started and I bought some old planes and put thick blades in them. With that I could plane well behaved grain, but I still wrecked boards. After working a bunch of overtime i splurged on a 4.5 LN plane. About that time I also really learned to sharpen – nothing like an expensive tool to motivate the study of maintainence. That plane works wonderfully, but it weighs a ton. But with my new knowledge about sharpening, I discovered my old planes and thin irons performed as well as the LN 99% of the time and because of their lighter weight are much more pleasurable to use. Oh, and those thin irons sharpen up much faster than that thick A2 iron. If I only knew then what I know now, and what Paul preaches, I’d have saved many hours, a lot of money and a huge stack of wrecked boards. I tell new woodworkers to spend money on a good sharpening system and learn what sharp really is. Sharp fixes almost everything. I have a similar, though more convoluted story about saws.

  8. David’s comment about planes reminds me of one video I came across in my early explorations in which the presenter insisted that you had to buy a top-of-the-line plane in order to do any proper woodworking; that you had to have a plane with no backlash in the adjustment knob, such as, why, the one he had. Anything less was junk. When I found that plane online, it cost hundreds of dollars. Just one plane, and of course you need several. His message, in other words, was that even with hand tools you had to spend heaps of money if you wanted to be a real woodworker. It still makes me angry.

    Paul is the only one I have seen who teaches — without a wisp of condescension, I should add— how to make a poor man’s router, or who offers alternative ways of accomplishing tasks depending on what tools people have available to them. He’s the only one I’ve found who acknowledges the real constraints people’s finances may impose, and who helps people work around them, for instance by promoting affordable tools and helping people get the most out of them. That’s the sign of a good teacher and an empathic teacher. Paul is also the only one I’ve found who emphasizes that it’s not the cost of the tools that matters, but the skill and knowledge in using them. Without one’s knowing how to sharpen its blade, an expensive plane is just as much a piece of junk as that old backlash-besmirched Stanley.

  9. I guess the caveat to that saying in today’s age should be “Buy the best tool that you can afford WiTHOUT using a credit card”. Meaning what tool can you pay for in extra cash from your 2 week’s pay where you can still afford to pay the mortgage and utilities etc and put food on the table. Not a tool that is under your credit limit.

  10. I have a Canadian made Disston d8, 4 or 5 tpi (can’t remember now).
    It’s quite a good saw to me, am I missing something?
    Cheers from Italy

    1. It’s probably the same story as mine – I found a Fischer saw with a wooden handle and brass screws, which gives it a certain age (it’s an inexpensive brand available at big box hardware stores, but the handles are all plastic now). I think “Paul said” (as we tend to say), even a badly sharpened saw (like mine…) can cut well just after being sharpened. But I don’t have any illusions about the quality of the steel in my saw, and I know it loses its too sharpness rather quickly (maybe after 15-30minutes of use). Not that I resharpen immediately, but the difference is evident even to my unskilled hands. I think a better quality saw will keep it’s edge longer, implying fewer sharpenings and a longer lifespan and better efficiency. The second reason is to have a wooden handle, which is easier to reshape for many different users than a plastic handle with rubber grips. The last detail is probably the location of the center of thrust relative to the saw tooth line, but that’s pretty subtle, and I only read about that once or twice.

    2. I also have a few Canadian made Distons. There are some subtle and not so subtle variations which I expect are related to how cheaply they could be made at the time- mostly the saw nuts and the shaping of the handle but I imagine the steel itself would be compromised too. In saying that I have one which I have used as part of my daily kit for at least ten years and it is very serviceable. Anything bar a tenon saw (for some reason they command a lot for a little) unless in pristine condition can be often purchased for very little or they are given away in my neck of the woods. I am sure this will shift once the value is realised or more people learn to sharpen themselves. I started sharpening when the local saw doctor changed hands and the quality dropped. Now there is a better one again but I don’t need them anymore thanks to Pauls instruction.

      1. I have a newish disston that I made a new handle for and for some reason thought it would be fine to hand grind a full length taper on with a vernier, some old stones and sandpaper. It worked, but it took much longer than I expected! I also tried to tension the tooth line with some hammer tapping, although I don’t think it did much. The sharpening and the setting is where almost all the benefit is. Well, actually, the eye and hand of the Sawyer is where most of the benefit is.

        Thanks Paul for all the good words. You’ve really helped my woodworking and really my outlook on working more generally. One thing I have found out about a secondhand plane–they often work better than any new plane since the person that owned it before already took the time to lap the bottom and straighten out the mouth and otherwise get it ready to use. Certainly not always the case, but I haven’t yet found a plane I couldn’t coax to cut with enough attention!

    3. The Canadian Disston, and for that matter the American ones are those produced by Porter who bought out Disston in the mid 1950’s. The early Canadian Disstons before this time where just as good as those out of Philadelphia. Any Disston with “HK Porter” on the blade is not of the old Disston quality. And I agree a number of the older English saws makers made saws that were just as good if not better than Disston. S&J made some outstanding saws prior to and even after WW II

  11. I think it is important to point out that money is not the only resource one expends on woodworking. Some amateurs have very limited time available to spend in the workshop (say 1 hour per week) because of the responsibilities that come with things like having a full time job and a family to support. Some people have more time and some people have more money.

    I, for one, am quite thrilled that there are companies that make excellent tools and people prepared to pay a fair price to keep their doors open.

    1. I guess thats the question then is “whats a FAIR price?” And when does it cross the line into an exorbitant luxury good. You have to figure out the least common denominator. For example with dovetail saws, you won’t get better results than an $80 Veritas DT saw or a $125 LN DT saw, so a FAIR price would be somewhere in the range of $80-125. Now if someone sticks a $10 piece of rosewood or ebony on for handles, does that justify the extra $300 over the price of one that works perfectly? Or is that just pure luxury?

  12. A friend of mine is a very accomplished acoustic blues guitarist. He regularly gets people approaching him after the show asking him who built his custom instrument. Sometimes he just doesn’t have the heart to tell them it’s a Far East budget one…

    1. Glad you brought up musical instruments. I am a keen guitarist and pianist. Yes, a 50 quid “toy” guitar isn’t going to sound great, but an accomplished player can make a budget instrument sound amazing.

  13. Hi Paul, I seem to recall in a previous post, admittedly some years ago, that you said you one day hoped to own a full set of Philley planes. Given that they start at around £160, they would appear to be luxury items, far outside the budgets of the woodworkers you aim to teach. Just out of interest, do you think of Philley planes as being “luxury” tools that are nice to own? Or do you genuinely believe the price is a fair reflection of the skill of the maker and the quality of the materials used. As I say, I’m just interested in your opinion. I’m not looking to cause any controversy or heap coals on any fires.

    1. I did say that but the issue is what can we genuinely afford both in time and money. It is doubtful that I would ever change to using a wooden plane as a general discourse for my work and it would indeed be prohibitive to most of my audience too. Often I will admire tools for their skilled workmanship and these planes are very nicely made in an age where they no longer exist. That is a good enough reason for wanting to own a set. I do like to support skilled workmanship and indeed to have one or two choice pieces in my collection (even never used) that are less an engineering process preset digitally appeals to me much more. In the realms of planes and saws and such, these are basically engineered products without much manual dexterity to them as such. That’s not to say that some of the machining isn’t skilled workmanship, more that is most likely to be CNC equipment making bolt-on, bolt-together parts ready for simple assembly on an assembly line. Whereas the benefits of wooden planes on the wood are markedly different to metal planes, most of the so-called premium planes create a gross imbalance simply because of their cost, weight, heft and inflexible engineering. You see, to the engineer screwthreads should have zero slack in the take-up, to the user, like myself, I like a little slack there and that’s because a little flex is quite handy to have. Al you need to do is tell a woodworker, and our planes have zero whiplash in the threads for adjustment and the woodworker thinks, ‘Wow, great. That must be better!’
      The price is definitely a fair reflection of the skilled workmanship and much more than any of the other modern makers creating in metal. There are of course other engineers using time-consuming engineering methods to produce planes costing $5,000 and up. Now, these would make nice conversation pieces amongst friends and woodworkers but would I find any use for these either? Not really. A Stanely and Record #4 will do almost all the plane work I need.

  14. Only slightly related to the above:
    info please: what is the make and model of the small knife you use for scoring and making a knife wall?
    Thank you
    Martin Riley

    1. The knife I use and recommend if the Stanley folding knife 10-049. Costs less than £10. If you nneed info like this in future go to commonwoodworking.com as this is where we try to keep everyone updated should changes or new products come in view.

      1. For a while, you switched to that red-handled scalpel. I guess that was an example of a more expensive product not providing any additional benefit 🙂

        My attitude with tools has been to go with something economical, but not too cheap. Think of those screwdriver sets you see in Dollar Stores – junk that’s only useful if it’s the only thing available right now. But something a bit better lasts a while and gives you a chance to learn how to use it. If it never wears out, you don’t have to upgrade, unless you need some additional features. IF it does wear out, you’ve had your economical learning tool.

  15. Well said. I have the S&J panel saw and tennon saw both. Bought under your recommendation and they have not disappointed. I will,at some point, also refine the handles to suit myself. And i will do it gladly knowing that i am making my saw truly my saw. I wonder what happens if the handle breaks on the expensive saw. Do you pay the maker alot of money for a replacement or do you do what a woodworker does and ‘jump through hoops’ to make a new handle for yourself. I know from my limited experience which option i prefer. In refining these tools and making your own tools you are gaining far more than bragging rights about owning the latest £400 saw. I reaxh for my hand made frame saw over my panel saw mostly. Because the frame saw is truly my tool and i have an appreciation for it far above what i have for a bought tool. As i will have for my panel saw when i refine the handle. The proof is in the work you produce, not how much your tools cost.

    1. There are thousands of old saws for sale, many with bent or cracked blades that can be had for very little. Consider buying them if only to reutilize the lovely handle and the saw screws so they don’t end up in the landfill. Some fit my hand so perfectly well, it was as if I had it custom made for me (Groves, Atkins, Disston…). I keep those as templates and then try to hand make copies. You can re-use them if you don’t want to make completely new handles. Making new totes is a fun project and well worth a try and doesn’t really cost you anything; the first handle I made from a bit of dry firewood, and it was still firewood afterwards, but I tried again and eventually got better at it). Instead of making a completely new tote, there is nothing wrong with buying a junk saw for its handle, and putting that lovely old handle on your new saw plate.
      I suggest that you gain a little experience first by switching handles on a couple of junkers before you try it on your ‘good ones’ not because it is difficult but because it is finicky work and you always run into some snags that you will have to work through using your own tools, skills, and techniques (the hang, the kerf, the nuts and bolts etc). Some saw plates are extremely hard, and you may need to find a carbide tip spade drill to cut through the saw plate or alternatively learn how to ‘spot anneal’ spring steel. Then it’s the matter of lining up all the holes and learning about sequence of work to get the hang of the saw correct. Lots of fun on a Saturday afternoon. But some people get frustrated easily and hate tinkering this way, so for those that have the funds, please do support the craftsmen that make their living from the craft of sawmaking (or leatherwork, knifemaking, or whatever). We need to get back to a society where we know the people that make our daily use items (shoes, briefcases, kitchen knife, handsaw, plane, whatever). I want to help those self-employed crafts people to succeed if I can. These are high quality “buy it for life” items that will sometimes last for generations. At the same time I am supporting those human beings who want to live the challenging but deeply satisfying life of an artist or crafts person (as Paul did). Buying disposable landfill-ready tools is not a sustainable practice. I don’t think it’s quite fair for Paul to promote craft woodworking (he has always found people to pay for the value of his work) while at the same time disparaging toolmakers who also need to charge a fair price for their work. Now in many places we have a resurgence of craftspeople trying to make a living by ‘making’ and selling (bread, clothing, tools, etc) from scratch. This is a good thing and I think we should support them if we can. It’s an old idea from the original Arts and Crafts movement, a revolution from the then new soul-less mass production technology of the steam engine driven industrial revolution. At that time, many authors warned of the consequences of the ‘cog in a machine’ factory life, and the rampant rise of alcohol and drug abuse, violence, and psychological ill health.

  16. Paul, I read your article on S&J saws, so I bought one for 23€. It cuts fine, I don’t find the handle uncomfortable, and when I do I will read your blog. If people want to spend 400£ on a saw, well what can anyone do or say?

  17. I like Norm so no offense but a true Normite also needs to buy the house next door to have room for all his power tools.

  18. I really enjoy my old Hand tools some I’ve had since childhood ( yes I’m getting old myself). My saws were my fathers, the handles are worn and comfortable but I’m often too lazy to use them and use my power saws instead.
    I have 1940s cast iron machinery that I restored and to me that was very rewarding and enjoyable. I got them cheap on eBay and it took me years to rebuild. There are so many facets of woodworking to be immersed in that makes it a great pastime.

  19. 45 years ago, I invested in a machine workshop. All new machines because that was the “right” way to do it. 20 years ago, I sold all but a scroll saw and a radial arm saw. When I found Paul Sellers, I studied his videos and decided to get back into my workshop and go with hand tools only but my financial situation was not what it was earlier on. I started buying tools on ebay and learning how to restore them. I am happy to say that the only new hand tool that I own is my dovetail saw that my daughter bought for a birthday present 5 years ago. All of my other tools are pre-owned or “bargain basement” (Aldi chisels for example). A few years ago, I started purchasing pre-owned wooden planes and with the skills I learned, stated restoring them, too. Now, I can take a used and abused hand tool and bring it back to perform for another century.

  20. When I took seriously woodworking as a hobby, a few years ago, I was convinced that if you want to get good results you need good tools and you need skills when using that tools too. And respecting the first part of this, I bought a Thomas Flinn Pax tenon saw. It did cost almost 100 pounds, and it is a very good saw with a beatiful look (it is the least you can expect if you have spent that money on a tool). It works very well (again, that it works well is the very least you can expect from a specialized tool with a high price). Fortunately I am a lucky man, an engineer with a good and very well paid job, so the cost was not a problem for me. Following this reason I had bought a good new #4 plane and some other tools on that line, thinking the same thing: “good results require very good tools”.

    Why I say this? As you can suppose, it did comes the time to sharpen that tools, and I was frightened to ruin them with a bad sharpening. Well, just a few weeks after buying that saw I found Paul’s work in YouTube, and after watching him I began to look for old good tools in flea markets, second-hand tools and so on. Initially the idea was to use those old tools as “dummy tools” to practice in sharpening, setting… For a few euros most of the times I found some S&J and Tyzack tenon saws, an Abraham & Ashton handsaw, some Stanley #4 planes to restore, old chisels, and I bought them to use them as sacrificial tools to learn on them the skills I need to go on working with my premium tools…

    … but now, almost four years after and a lot (a lot!) of hours watching Paul’s videos and reading his book, practising at the shop and learning from who really knows how things in woodworking must be done, my old and restored tools are the ones I use most. I prefer my old #4 Stanleys because they are lighter and I could control them better, the restored saws cut like a dream and I’ve bought a S&J 10 ppi handsaw that I got after watching Paul using it one time and another and I use it, sharpen it and enjoy it, I have an old and restored #5 1/2 Record that works perfectly, old chisels that cut like razors, and so on, and my first thoughts about needing premium tools have changed. Now I know that they can help, they can be fantastic, but they are not a “must” at all.

    Personally, I find a special personal satisfaction on working with old rescued tools now, and that is important for me. My Thomas Flinn is still a very good saw and I suppose it always will be it, but now it’s one saw more between the half a dozen I have.

    And fortunately, as I said before, I can afford premium tools without considering too much about if they have a realistic cost or they are overpriced, but I’ve learned some important things on the way. I got a Veritas router plane but not thinking about that it is a premium tool and the results I can get with it will be automatically better, I bought it ’cause I didn’t want to pay an overpriced #071 Stanley or Record hand routers in eBay.

    Perhaps the most important tool in my shop now be all those things I’m learned from Paul along these years… hmmm… yes, it could be…

  21. As a recent convert to the Sellers philosophy of woodworking, I like the idea of getting good, usable tools at lower prices. It would be helpful, however, if there was a blog on when (specific years) the “old classic” brands became cheap, unusable and undesirable.

  22. Totally agree in everything. I will say also, you don’t have to buy the cheapest of them all either, which are those chinese 1 use tools (literally, as a rubber mallet I bought once… took 4 blows before breaking the handle in half) I would say to buy economy tools with decent quality-price, as Aldi or Lidl. Sometimes Lidl tools can be also quite flimsy as well, it’s a matter of common sense

  23. The truth is having choice is what is great about buying tools today. You can still find great tools for little cash sometimes less than a £ I bought a Sorby chisel rusty and blunt for 50p at an antiques warehouse near Harrogate. It’s now clean and sharp and worth far more. By showing us how to restore, repair and care for tools Paul is really helping us out. For people with the money to spend it’s fine to buy a great tool. If you buy a Shane Skelton saw, Lie Nielsen or a veritas one when you have been used to a cheap Chinese clone from B&Q it will be a revelation to you. But take a 2nd hand S&J follow Paul’s instructions to fettle it and it too will be a revelation. I was taught to always buy the best tools I can afford. The best tools are not always the most expensive! If you are on a budget scrimp a little on the tools you don’t use too often and save up for the tools you are drooling over. Finally and most importantly remember tools should be used to make something beautiful. Don’t forget to to make time to enjoy using what you have got. Continue to love the boo Paul.

  24. At the end of the day, the tool is only as good as it’s users skills, regardless of what he paid for it….Back when I was an apprentice Machinist, you acquired tools as you progressed in the regard that the more you learned and the better your skills got the better tools you could afford or during your apprenticeship a retiring Journeyman who took a liking to you gave you a few of his tools when he left the shop. And from this apprenticeship I learned a few things about tools regardless of what trade they are used in, one of them being that you should look at the quality and practicality of the tool first, not its price tag. Like many in my part of the world, I am constantly told “Buy American” and while I may come off as unpatriotic, many American made tools simply aren’t worth the price in comparison to the quality, while I have purchased tools from the UK, Canada and India which with in some cases a little bit of tuning up, have showed themselves more than worth their price.

  25. Robert Stringer

    Just read with interest from all these so called woodworkers that are out there. It seem all I hear is you need this tool that tool to do the job. Let’s get back into the days of woodworking how many routers cordless drills and all the other modern power tools we have today I’m no exception to this. But the truth is all these tools are made to make the job quicker and lots of money out of us. These tools have one drawback they tend to brakedownand its costly to repair or renew and that what its about. Its not always best to buy the dearest tools around. Its a out how long your tools will last. I bought some of the cheapest tools around and they’ve lasted longer than any of the dearest tools. It’s about how you use them and look after them. I’ve been using an 150 year old oak plane now for 50 years and it better than anything you can buy today. Chippendale didn’t have any power tools and look at the woodworking dong when there was no such thing. Motive and tenon joints done with hand saw hammer and chisel. In place of routes I was taught to use a plane with shaped blade to make ogee, mouldings etc . How many joiners out there today know how to make all moulding joints etc etc by hand and the answer is very very few because nobody teaches this way of woodwork today. It all about speed today and how much you can charge a customer and make big profits. My saws can still be sharpened. Saws today can’t because they make them with hardened teeth once they go dull you dump them and buy another why because the company’s want you to buy more saws my saws are 50years old and I sharpen them myself. Work it out if it cost me £20 to buy a saw that will last 50years or more or £8 every 6/12 months for 50 years who’s the wiser one and quess who’s making all that extra money in your working life its not you that’s for sure. How many joiners out there know how to sharpen a saw a chsiel a plane blade I would say not many as your not taught how to do these things it’s quicker to replace these things. So my advise to somebody wanting to take up joinery speak to somebody that know alot about the old fashion way of woodworking and ask adi e on some of the best tools to buy for the job you are wanting to do read books and watch utube. Don’t jump in the deepend compare prices for time usage ie life of the tool cost to repair and how regular you are goin to be buying the dearer more modern tools compared to tools that cost a little less but don’t have to be repaired regular good luck.

  26. Hi Paul,

    You explanation above is the reason I keep my membership. It’s easy to search on the web for all kinds of high price, high quality tools. What’s challenging and hard to learn is how to do with what you have and what you can afford It is much easier with a trusted mentor like yourself.

    Thank you and your team for the insights and larger virtual community created.

  27. I got into woodworking as a hobby after I moved into a new house and started thinking about, and looking at, furniture. It quickly became obvious that nice wood furniture costs a great deal of money. I do relatively well financially, but- decking out a house with good, solid, “lasts a lifetime” furniture is a something for the truly rich. . . unless you can make your own of course. Luckily I stumble across Paul and some of the other folks on the internet doing this stuff in simple shops with hand tools.

    First, there is no shame in paying for nice tools if you have the means and want to. I’ve learned the same thing, however, as some of the previous folks who have posted here. There is nothing magical about the expensive, boutique produced, planes and saws. These tools still have to be kept sharp, configured to task, maintained, etc. Learn to do these things and the less expensive tools from ebay work just as well (at least in my experience). A key thing I’ve notices is that it is almost always the case that a tool from ebay requires attention before the first use whereas the expensive boutique tool often (but not always) arrives ready for use so you don’t have to start with maintenance for a few extra days.

    I’d also offer that an additional benefit of hand tools vs power tools is that one doesn’t need to suit up in layers of protective gear to engage in a hobby. For me, putting on glasses, ear protection, respirators just isn’t fun or relaxing. With hand tools, the need for all this is very much diminished and and constrained to just a few tasks from time to time.

    I have found that a roller ball out feed for my band saw if very helpful (almost necessary) with projects where I have to process lots of long boards. An example would be lots of 12 ft long stock for a wall of bookshelves. At the cheap end you can buy a very poor one for $40 (USD). I made one with some construction grade lumber left over from something else. It works a charm and I was able to apply a lot of the things I learned watching Paul’s videos. I find I get extra satisfaction when I can take techniques and knowledge from these videos and adapt it to new and different tasks. My roller stand cost me around $20 for the roller bearings (Amazon).

    I do have a few nice, new tools from the usual suspects. I like these tools just fine. I don’t feel they are essential in any way. They are, indeed, nicely made and turned out. I think there is a lot of hype in the marketing around materials, micro level tolerances and such. Somehow those folks a couple centuries back managed to turn out some very nice furniture without those materials, micro level flatness, and such.

    I’m sure debate around all this will never end. I’m glad there are people producing new hand tools. I buy from them now and then and am happy to do so. I also love finding old tools and putting them back into service.

  28. I guess it all depends on what you are into. If you like collecting – collect, if you like making make. The hard part is figuring out what you want out of the experience. Once you’ve found the path, it’s a pleasure to walk (even the muddy, uphill parts with sharp pointy bushes).

    What differentiates Paul from the others out there I’ve seen is that his teaching provides many pathways allowing you to think about what you are striving for, how you want to approach hand tool wood working.

    Of course as in all things, there are fundamentals that can’t be avoided, accuracy, sharpness, discipline and most importantly the focus on how the tool, the wood and yourself form a whole.

    Thanks for that last one Paul.

  29. Mr. Sellers, thanks for your comments on this subject. All to often we are pushed to spend (often outside of our means) in order to get the best results. The reality is that building skill is the key. A high cost tool won’t substitute for skill.

    Taking time to refine a economy tool is not “jumping through hoops”. I builds skill, further familiarizes you with the tool and makes it personalized to you.

    Choosing a tool wisely, based on “value for dollar”, should be the goal. This is the philosophy I see you promoting and I find it a breath of fresh air.

  30. I picked up a few old saws at a tool show for $2 each. I bought them from a maker of $300 saws who was cleaning out his backlog of restoration projects.

    I grabbed one of them , a D8, to practice sharpening and it works like a champ. Has a nice apple handle on it that needs some care but that’s my current favorite (because it’s sharp).

    After that I noticed that a 5 pack of “practice saw blanks” from LN is $50 and you can’t even test them once you’ve sharpened them. One of the neighbors is getting started in hand tool woodworking so I will try to set him up with some spare planes and saws. He could start out with a very minimal cost due to my overbuying habits.

  31. Paul, I m part of a Facebook group that focuses on making bee hives and beekeeping wooden ware. I recently asked if anyone would be interested in learning how to do it using hand tools only. You can guess some of the responses. One responder put it so well; for most, we don’t keep bees for profit, it’s a hobby. And as such, making wooden ware is not about volume of production, but craft and satisfaction. I’m going to start with simplified plans that use only a hand saw, a chisel and a hammer. Ill add in a screw driver if needed, but nails will work just fine. Your lessons will be passed along to yet another audience.
    Thank you.

    1. I guess these are Langstroth hives you plan to make? Most popular. I have made topbar hives which I have used and enjoyed. Very simple.

      1. I’ll be teaching both Lang and Top bar. Today we were discussing Nationals and there simplicity. The heard thing for me is that Aldi may not be selling their chisels here any more. They didn’t last year, and I’d like to make a recommendation, do you have any runners up in the affordable range?
        Thanks again.

      2. I am a beekeepers too. I would love to see Paul build a thick walled AZ Slovenian beehive. I would give up a lot to have the Sellers team do this. The horizontal hives are basically a big cabinet with a door in the back for the beek to open do some inspections and close…just like a cabinet door. Very cool and easy on the older backed beekeeper.


  32. I chuckled a bit reading this post. I fully agree with you. I recall reading the comment too that triggered this post. I also recall reading your article thinking ‘those Spear & Jackson saws are much too expensive for my liking. For that kind of money I buy 10!’ Reading that the saw in the original comment costs 400 UK pound….ok. To each his own, I suppose. Anyway, the remark ‘jumping through hoops’ tells a lot more about the person commenting than the person being commented on.

    I’ve always been of the opinion that any fool can go out and buy tools. That’s the easy bit. But acquiring the skills to use it, now there lies the challenge. Buying a welding machine? No problem! But becoming a good welder, that one takes perseverance. Same with photography. I use 40 year old Pentax film cameras (MX and KX) that I’ve bought for peanuts, then completely taken apart, cleaned, lubed and re-assembled, built the tools to measure and adjust the curtains and shuttertime, special wrenches, etc.; surely a lot of hoops to jump through to take pictures. And I fully realize that my equipment is not the limitation, but my photography skills are. Same with woodworking, an old restored Stanley plane will be up to the task, but the real question is whether the operator (me) is too….

    I’ve always admired people who with very simple means manage to build magnificent things. Folks in Africa who build their own welding transformer out of string and spit and weld with it. My father, who had nothing but an old buzz-box and could weld anything he desired with it. He was a much better welder than I am. Me? I have got a fancy top-brand 3-phase 250A watercooled inverter AC/DC TIG machine. I greatly enjoy that machine, but would never in my life buy it new. And I’m not nearly as much of a welder as my father. Again, the machine isn’t the limitation but *I* am.

    Funny thing is, I bought it broken, for scrap price, and ‘repaired’ it. The repair? It consisted of re-plugging an internal connector that had vibrated loose…. (admittedly, if the repair would have been more involved, I’d also have succeeded, no doubt). Thanks to a bit of luck and some skill I now have a machine that I consider the bees-knees. Come to think of it, all my welding machines were acquired as scrap and repaired by me. You learn a lot about your equipment too in the process. Or alternatively, you could consider it hoops to jump through. Just depends on your point of view.

    When people say, ‘you have to choose, high quality (with a high price), or low price (with low quality)’, I usually respond with ‘false dichotomy! I choose high quality for low price.’ ‘Impossible!’, they say. Nope. Buy second-hand and restore or repair. Put in some time and effort and you *can* have your pie and eat it too. And old, high quality, Stanley plane, acquired for a token amount of money, which just needs a bit of effort to perform as good as when it was new.

    And maybe, just maybe, I happen to enjoy jumping through hoops?

  33. I enjoyed this post and comments following. For the last 45 years I have remodeled , purchased and sold a half dozen houses. I have become a pretty fair carpenter and fixer. My father was skilled and produced some very nice pieces of furniture. He taught me to cope molding and use a handsaw as well as an appreciation for shopwork. He never liked skill saws and always chose to use a handsaw(panel). For many years I acquired power tools and have a sizeable shop , most of the tools were purchased used from estate or garage sales. In the last five years I have moved more to handtools and have acquired many. I have bought a dovetail saw from a higher end maker ; however, most often I reach for the old Disston or Ames panel or back saw on the rack. I have begun sharpening them and the results are satisfactory. I have purchased from reputable dealers online in the US used tools from mainline makers of the last century and am pleased with them. My experience with bench planes has been that I can purchase good ones, mostly Stanley. at yard sales for $10 to $25 and clean them up, tune and use. I have a couple of Bedrocks and they are not usually the ones I use. I enjoy tuning and repairing as needed and learn from this process. Although I am not yet skilled in woodworking , I am gaining in this process .

  34. Hi Paul,

    You are an an interresting great earthling or so. I like your words, world and work. I enjoy to read your writings and discover little by little your mind or spirit ?
    You help me a lot in my choises. I want to change my live. Permaculture, woodworking, life in a country etc. I dont want to be boring, so, i stop my blabla.
    I live in France and i learn woodworking with you and for that i do have to learn English to. It’s not easy but i’m charmed, so i learn.
    Thanks for all,

    Bien à vous,
    Ludovic Gatt

  35. Wonderful post, so relevant, thank you. I am trying to acquire the tools I need to learn skilled woodworking, and it is frustrating indeed. Even the used tools I am finding available on Ebay are horribly overpriced, and I am certain this is because of the collectors. I understand the joy that is behind the collector mentality, but they have made it impossible for average people to afford any of the old tools. And I am afraid, that at least here in California, it is long past the time when estate sales and garage sales would turn up worthwhile hand woodworking tools worth refurbishing. All the dealers fully understand that they can get top price for anything genuine that is old. Ah well. I think we are going back to a feudal sort of time, globally, there is lots to feel depressed about but at least working with our hands, creating beautiful things with wood, is an antidote. Yet there are many obstacles for average working people to overcome. I feel compassion for so many people that are not able to do meaningful work anymore.

  36. After working with my hands for 50 years, I can tell you it isn’t so much the tool as it is the hand behind the tool.

  37. The trick is finding the tools that are a good value. I bought an S&J saw on your recommendation and have been thrilled with it. I also have been able to find great eBay deals on few Stanley planes which certainly are capable of delivering results that far exceed my own limited skills (this includes a much maligned Type 20 No 4 which I spent a few hours tuning and fussing over and is now my favorite plane). These are examples of tools that are inexpensive and deliver exceptional value.

    But when I went to buy my first dovetail saw, I opted to fork over the $79.00 and buy a Veritas. Perhaps I could have found something on eBay that was lower cost, but I do not yet have comfort/confidence in sharpening and tuning a fine pitch dovetail saw, so opted for something that I knew would be sharp and well made right out of the box. I am fortunate enough to be able to afford the $79.00 and the saw gave me confidence, so in the end I felt like I got a good value here too.

    I have also learned from bitter experience that “cheap” tools (and I am using the word cheap deliberately as opposed to inexpensive) can cause harm that exceeds any cost savings you might otherwise enjoy. Cheap tools can break or fail in ways that damage whatever it is you are using them on, and even worse, in ways that can be truly dangerous. The value here is poor no matter how low the cost.

    To me, value is critical, and it is with great appreciation when fellow craftsmen discover tools that are truly of exceptional value (like the S&J Saws) and share that find.

  38. I really admire some of these expensive tools being made today, and have a couple myself. There are some really nice handtools being made, and these makers deserve a good word, too. BUT…. (here comes the “but”) most of my tools are stuff I picked up on Ebay or Craigslist for pennies on the dollar compared to these new tools, like old Stanley and Disston, and they are wonderfully functional. That said, I knew what I was looking at buying used and didn’t buy junk. For someone starting out, why not buy a Spear and Jackson for $50 or whatever until they know what they are looking at, and can pick up a great old Disston for $20 or less at a garage sale and rehab it? There’s no reason to look down one’s nose at that.

  39. Machines always exercise some fascination on (most) men.
    When I started to play with the idea of doing woodworking, I looked at all those machines the way a teenager would look at a sport car. Lots of people were proposing jigs. All those seemed so clever. That was speaking to the engineer in me. I even bought a motor-router which seemed to be of so universal use. In fact, I have used it twice in so many years.
    – I have no garage;
    – My house was furnished and the kitchen and bathroom had already been remodeled;
    – I always (try to) resist to find happiness in consumerism;
    – I am not in competition with anybody to have the best/biggest this or that;
    – I was not sure I would like woodworking enough to spend money on all those machines.
    As I had no working space, I continued to make armchair wood working (web) and then I discovered Paul Sellers.
    After a lot of procrastination, I made a Paul Sellers workbench in my back-garden (reclaimed wood).
    Then, I managed to clear about 4 or 5 square meter in the attic. And that is big enough for hand-tool woodworking. Nearly no dust (no wife complaint) and very low noise.
    It is not that I can’t afford them but most of my tools are second hand/inexpensive ones, except those I received for my birthday or for Christmas.

    I find my joy in acquiring new skills and honing them.
    Arriving at a level where, for example, I can do the desktop organiser before the video is published is a great satisfaction.
    That is not to say I didn’t learn new things while looking at the video afterwards.
    The more we learn, the more there is to learn. That keeps life interesting.

  40. Having long passed the three score years and ten and still have and use all my hand tools both for woodworking and engineering , may I add a little bit of lifetime experience with regard to cutting tools.
    It doesn’t matter what you pay for any tool , it all comes down to the quality of the steel that forms the cutting edge, be it a chisel ,plane blade , scraper or an engineer’s file.
    Good quality steel will always be apparent when you sharpen and remove the burr. If clean and crisp when removed the steel is good if the burr is rounded over and does not come away cleanly the harden and tempering are suspect or the steel is of poor quality.
    Take a look around your kitchen knives most are never sharp especially if stainless.
    As a young engineering apprentice we were taught how to identify the type of steel by observing the colour and shape of the sparks when touched on the grindstone , anything that gave a feathery yellowish spark was no good for a cutting tool , a nice dull red and little feathery shape was a good bet.
    Whatever tool you have it only works if it’s sharp , the sheer joy of a plane stroke with a nice curly shaving is the ultimate pleasure, who needs sandpaper?
    Whenever your cutting wood or metal , as soon as the finish goes off its time to sharpen up, your shavings and metal swarf will also indicate distress , time to sharpen
    So to summarize the debate about the cost of some tools just remember even the plane or chisel bought at a car boot sale or from a top tool supplier is only as good as the steel at the cutting edge.
    Thank you Paul for bringing us all together in the joy of hand tools.


  41. Brian Mac Gregor

    Very interesting discussion. I personally can’t afford a premiun called saw just because I’m doing this for living and I’m not really interested in having expensive tools at all. If I have a “bad” tool, I have and need to make my way to get that tool works fine for me and for the work I have to make because I need to eat, pay the rent, buy some supplies needed to keep working and so on.
    I always see, mostly in Instagram, many woodworkers who show their fancy and expensive tools when the point is to make fine or just decent furniture and, as I said, to get your tools work well. I wonder how many of us do this for living, because perspective changes when you face the reality. What to do if your couple or someone in your family is unemployed, has some illness or if you have to get some new clothes just because of the need of it (without buying expensive things)? What if you LOVE woodworking and want to develop your skills in a economic and political context that doesn’t ensure right social and health backup? This may not happen in all countries. Nowadays, we have to think globally and realize that the main thing is to (if you can) work in what you love. Not everybody has this privilege. So, in that sense, would you prefer to buy an expensive tool or have a decent life? Don’t think I’m talking for the pitty of some people, it’s reality. I think many of you (who are concerned about which expensive tool you are going to buy) would be sorprised how difficult is to get a decent workshop in Latin America. I may want to buy a good or premium tool sometime, but it isn’t necessary at all when you get the point. Thank you Paul for sharing your point of view because it has an historical, social, cultural and political (not ideological) backup. As a social and cultural anthropologist I get worried about the same things you notice in the post-industrial revolution world.
    Best regards.

  42. I very much appreciate your frugality, Paul. For many of us it means the difference between having a proper saw or not having one at all. In the States we are very fortunate that so many Disston’s have survived the years and are reasonably priced in second hand stores. I inherited mine from my grandfather but found a nice 5.5 tpi rip saw for $10, American.

    Now if I could only find a reasonably priced gouge for spoon carving…. haha.

  43. Dr. Christian Rapp

    Recently I spent a day improving a wooden plane from ECE. Given that I have a job and three kids it might have been better spending 300 Euro for a Lie Nielsen plane that works out of the box (and probably can be inherited by my kids) and spent the day on woodworking rather than preparing. Sure. You learn a lot from repairing too.

    Same about the Aldi Chisels. I bought mine here https://www.mhg-tools.de/ There are some ready out of the box still for a reasonable price (less than 100 Euro for a full set).

    My point: For sure money should not be wasted. But saving a lot often is paid by more time you have to invest to get it workable. Maybe Paul manages that in brief time. Hobby Woodworker may want to pay a little more and gain time to actually do woodworking rather than improving the tools for it.

    And many thanks to Paul making us flourish 🙂

  44. tayler whitehead

    as a retired furniture maker, who made individual commission pieces rather than bulk (i hate batch work with a passion), my shop is small and tool range is rather sparse. i have never made the mistake of spending $100’s on a chisel set for instance because they have a name stamped on the blade. most of my chisels have been picked up at second hand stores, cleaned and sharpened and work just as well between sharpening. i think it says more about the person who pays excessively for a “brand” than the tool itself. i have known carpenters for instance who swear by the “yellow brand” yet the tools, so much more expensive, last no longer than the cheaper ones at half the price. a good example of this is glasses frames. they are all made in italy in one factory, they have a design team in house who make all the designs. so you could buy some $20 frames or you could buy a big brand frame for $100’s. but they are all the same materials and the same team produced them. so are we so insecure we need bragging rights? or do we just want get on with life.

  45. Paul has taught me [and many others] so much.
    the common sense [which ain’t so common] of
    woodworking. when and bought some old Disston
    saws [whether they were the “right” kind, dunno]
    when pushed they bend, so went back to the
    Japanese pull saws. at my age [72] don’t care,
    each blade lasts several years, thin kerf, accurate.
    also the blades can be re-purposed [scrapers]

    have found the Japanese have a thing about hand
    made quality, the trick is to find affordable hand tools.

    different strokes, all in all Paul does a real service
    for which am very grateful.

  46. I started with a broken hacksaw blade, broken file, a plane that was left for scrap, and some small children’s handy man tool set. I was 7 years old. when my parents seen me building stuff out of small logs they laughed but seen that I actually interested in something besides cartoons. made my first handmade saw from those old broken tools, a log and a scrap sheet metal. It cut like crap but I used it anyway. 38 years later I put myself through college 3 times for electronics and computers on my woodworking and currently have a job doing a bit of all 3. I also dabble in the machine building and restoration trades.

  47. Completely agree, the craftsmanship is always the most important and adapting to your tool as well.i am not old enough to have “old tools” but my set range from new to second hands, from branded to Lidl. And I m glad to say most of them are quality tools regardless of the price and suited for the job I need. I also make my own tools and those give me the highest satisfaction as they are designed for me. One’s ability to use a tool plays more part in the outcome than the price of it.really enjoy reading your blog by the way.best

  48. Andrew Churchley

    I advocate the most expensive tools possible, but only after their owners have blunted them, become disillusioned and want to sell them at the lowest of prices!

  49. Robert Hastings

    I think it’s a Western culture thing. We’re terrible about throwing things away and buying something new. There are times were that works. I remember watching the news when I was a kid and seeing helicopters being thrown over the side of a boat to make room for refugees during the fall of Saigon. Fortunately my own life has never been that drastic and I have learned to slow things way down. I do have a table saw but it was one my boss sold me for $50. It was an old Craftsman built back around 1977. It was handed down to my boss by his father and had been gathering dust & rust for all the years he had it. A little loving care brought it back to life. Richard, my boss, was thrilled to see it restored. I’m sure his father would agree if he were here today.

  50. Paul, this article is a gem…it speaks not just of tools and tool brands but of a philosophy and an approach to successful work that is adaptable and adoptable by the vast majority of the spectrum of any society in which woodworking is practiced. Spot on my friend.

  51. Hello
    A friend is giving me an old radial arm saw: do you think it is good tool to have?

    1. No. I probably would turn it down if I could. Radial arm saws are a danger unto themselves so unless you need to for much of the work you do I probably would not want one.

      1. I love radial arm saws. They need respect but they are extremely versatile. You can dado, make long angle joints for rafters. You can cut wider stock than a sliding compound mitre saw. I wish I could find one.

  52. Brian Thurman

    Paul you often say but an old Stanley no4, but how can you tell that it is an old model, they all look the same to an untrained eye.

    1. but now have a perfect flex to the Paul Sellers

      Yes. I think pictures are critical for this. Personally I prefer those that were well used and by someone who did lots of woodworking. If it helps, too, I never grind my irons but my vintage 1965 planes have each had three or four irons over the fifty-odd years of use and the planes themselves, mechanisms, etc, are as good as the day I bought them but now have perfect flex to them. These planes are virtually indestructible.

  53. Paul Wethington

    Well said Paul! You have laid it out clearly as usual. I bought the Spear and Jackson you suggested and I reworked the handle to suit my hand. I am currently getting up to speed on sharpening and restoring used hand tools for my woodworking all thanks to what I have learned from you! I wish I had found you on line years ago! It would have saved me from spending a lot of money on machines I didn’t need. So please keep on doing the wonderful work that you do! Your work has benefited so many of us by giving us your clearly thought out instructions and teaching. May we all have the joy and privilege of seeing and hearing you for many years to come! Thank you for your work and your honesty and generosity! You have made a difference in so many people’s lives.

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